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Officers Sue After Surviving NY Chopper Crash

BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CN) - Police helicopter passengers who crashed into the water while patrolling for President Barack Obama's 2010 visit to the United Nations sued the maker of the chopper for negligence.

Erin Nolan, James Varga, Thomas Diaz, Michael Casali, Sean Daly and Raphael Saavedra all survived the Sept. 22, 2010, crash but "suffered serious physical and emotional injuries," according to the federal complaint. Katherine Casali, Jolene April Diaz and Aya Varga also seek spousal damages.

A reporter for the Associated Press reported the next day that there were no serious injuries from the rough landing into Jamaica Bay. That article described the six police officers on board as a three-member flight crew, one trainee and two scuba divers.

There is no such identifying information in this week's complaint against Bell Helicopter Textron and Pratt & Whitney Canada.

Citing a post-accident examination, the survivors say that an output reduction gear on the engine had failed prematurely because of fatigue from a defect that originated during the engine manufacturing process.

"The gear failure led to an immediate loss of power output from the engine to the helicopter rotor blade system and resulted in a loss of rotor speed and subsequent impact, causing injuries to plaintiffs," the complaint states.

"Defendant Bell was responsible for ensuring that the component parts and equipment in the helicopters it designed, manufactured, assembled, distributed and sold were not defective and to provide sufficient quality assurance and control, including a non-delegable duty to inspect and test for defects, so that its helicopters, engines and all equipment installed thereon were airworthy, safe and not unreasonable dangerous."

Bell had "sold, leased and/or delivered" the subject helicopter to the New York Police Department, according to the complaint, which says Pratt & Whitney was responsible for the airworthiness and safety of the chopper's engine and its component parts.

"The helicopter crash and resulting damage were caused by placing a defective and unreasonably dangerous helicopter in the stream of commerce and/or by the careless, negligent and reckless acts and commissions of the defendants, and each of them, as stated herein," the complaint states.

Nolan and the other plaintiffs seek damages for negligence and product liability.

They are represented by Brian Alexander with Kreindler & Kreindler in Manhattan.


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